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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Deadly Mine Explosion in West Virginia

Aired January 22, 2003 - 08:02   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Now back to the very latest on the deadly mine explosion in West Virginia.
Here to update us on the rescue and recovery efforts is John Oliver, who happens to be the assistant state fire marshal for West Virginia.

He joins us on the telephone this morning.

Mr. Oliver, thanks so much for joining us.

What can you tell us about the miners who were rescued?

JOHN OLIVER, ASSISTANT STATE FIRE MARSHAL: I really have no report on those. I know two of them was life flighted out to Pittsburgh and one miner was transported by ambulance to a local hospital.

ZAHN: So you haven't gotten any information back from any of those hospitals as to how they're doing?

OLIVER: No, ma'am.

ZAHN: Tell us about what's going on right now.

OLIVER: Right now I believe that that coroner and the mine rescue team should actually be in the mine now attempting to retrieve the other three people that were in there.

ZAHN: So we can confirm it is three dead?

OLIVER: To our knowledge, that's correct. There were six miners altogether that did enter the mine. Approximately 45 minutes after they entered the mine, they had an explosion.

ZAHN: And have you been given any information on what might have caused that explosion?

OLIVER: Right now it's unconfirmed. It's a possibility it may have been methane gas buildup. However, that has not been confirmed yet.

ZAHN: I know that we had a gentleman on associated with the mining company who said that the miners were in the process of trying to sink an air shaft and they hadn't yet intersected with the coal seam. Has anybody else given you more information about that, like exactly where the miners were? OLIVER: What I was advised is that the miners are about approximately 1,000 feet underground. They had just built the shaft and they were removing the supports and everything, that there was a door that they had to cut open that leads into the shaft and they believe that's where the explosion occurred.

ZAHN: And to your knowledge, has there ever been an accident here at this mining company before?

OLIVER: That I'm not sure.

ZAHN: Well, John Oliver, I know you're on duty and you're waiting to get more information back.

We really appreciate your telling us what you know at this hour.

OLIVER: Thank you.

ZAHN: Appreciate your spending a little time with us this morning.

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